When I woke up Wednesday, it seemed like every other morning – the bright blue sky, strong stench of coffee in the hallway, and of course, our super early team meeting. After a visit to Professor Saeed Khan’s classes for questionnaires, I came back to make my routine calls to schedule, reschedule, confirm, and reconfirm meetings of the next few days in Dearborn. After making a few calls, I spoke to Imam Abdallah El-Amin, our host for the dinner that evening (video below). Imam ran the mosque known as the Muslim Center of Detroit which had been predominantly serving the African American community in Detroit for the past 30 years. As usual, I was expecting a powerful, enthusiastic, warm voice to be on the other side of the phone. However, there was something different about the voice this time. There was something somber in the Imam’s tone and that is when I knew at once that something was wrong. After conversing with me for a bit about the schedule for the night, Imam finally broke the heart-wrenching news to me…. The American Muslim superhero, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad had just passed away.
Imam Warith Deen Muhammad’s legacy was like no other. His father, Elijah Muhammad, was the leader of the Nation of Islam, which promoted one of the strongest Black Nationalist movements in the country. It produced legends such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. W. D. Muhammad followed his fathers’ footsteps in accordance with leadership; however, he switched directions towards mainstream Sunni Islam soon after. Even though, this raised a lot of criticism and drawbacks for W. D. Muhammad, he stuck to his beliefs and promoted the equality and unity for all men and women, regardless of race, religion, or culture. He was an educator, interfaith activist, civil rights advocate and the list goes on.
The Muslim Center identified Imam Warith Deen Muhammad as its leader and founder. There was no better way to commemorate W. D. Muhammad’s death than being at a place that constantly echoed his message through every person that walked by you in that building. The mosque was the hope of the Detroit-metro underprivileged community. The doors were open to all regardless of religion or race. They served the community in various ways, for example through soup kitchens, free clinic, and an Islamic school.
As I sat in the prayer area waiting for the athaan and staring at the carpet that had designs pointing towards the Kaabaa, I felt an air of peace and serenity suddenly take over me. I had been chasing this serenity my entire week in Detroit, but I wasn’t able to get a hold of it because I was exposed to so much that the eyes refused to see and the ears refused to hear. This exposure entails everything that my fellow teammate, Craig Considine expressed in his last blog. After spending days in restlessness, I was embraced again by hope as the message of W. D. Muhammad radiated from every wall of the Muslim Center. That’s when I realized that world lost a legend, however, it did not lose hope.
There is no better way to commemorate and bless the life of this American Icon than a prayer in the words of one of the greatest poets, Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who was also an ambassador of Islam in the East and the West:
Your life was brighter than even the moon
Your journey was better than even that of the morning star
May your grave be bright like the dawn’s mansion
May this dusty bed-chamber of yours be light-filled!
May the sky be spraying dew on your grave!
May the freshly grown grass be guarding this house!